(Hawaii Athletics) - The Big West Conference released its 2018 softball preseason poll with the University of Hawai'i picked to finish in fourth place. The poll was voted on by the eight head coaches of the conference. Hawai'i garnered 32 points while defending league champion, Cal State Fullerton was voted to repeat, receiving four first-place votes and 57 total points. Long Beach State was just edged out and is projected to finish in second place with three first-place votes and a total of 53 points.
The Rainbow Wahine return 15 letterwinners from last year's squad which finished with a 29-23 overall record and an 8-13 conference record to finish in seventh place in the Big West. Leading the charge into the 2018 season is three-time all-Big West pitcher Brittany Hitchcock. Last year she recorded many career statistical bests, including a 1.85 ERA, 19 wins, 35 appearances, 30 starts, 27 complete games, eight shutouts, 204.2 innings pitched, 63 runs allowed, 169 strikeouts, and an opponent batting average of .219.
Junior third baseman Nicole Lopez earned all-Big West first team honors after starting all 52 games last year at third base. She led UH with an overall batting average of .331. She recorded team-highs of 55 hits, 27 runs scored, 11 doubles, 12 home runs, and a .614 slugging percentage. Sophomore shortstop Angelique "Cheeks" Ramos was named Big West Freshman of the Year a season ago. As a rookie, Ramos hit .310 with six home runs, 17 RBI, 40 hits and a .473 slugging percentage in 49 games. During league play Ramos was an even more consistent threat as she batted .353 with three home runs, 18 hits, four RBI and a .569 slugging percentage.
Hawai'i will play an exhibition doubleheader against Josai (Tokyo) on Sunday, Feb. 11 at the newly renovated Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium before opening the season on the road against No. 19/22 BYU on Feb. 15 at the Marucci Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. It is the first time UH is opening the softball season on the road since 2002 when the 'Bows began the year at Long Beach State. Hawai'i will host their home opener with the start of the Texaco Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 28 against California.
2018 Big West Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Fullerton (4) 57
2. Long Beach State (3) 53
3. CSUN 43
4. Hawai'i 32
5. UC Riverside (1) 31
Cal Poly 31
7. UC Santa Barbara 29
8. UC Davis 12
( ) First-place votes